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Monday Message Board

May 18th, 2015

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

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  1. May 18th, 2015 at 09:22 | #2

    Well I screwed up there, but the whole second bit isn’t meant to be a hyperlink..

  2. Ikonoclast
    May 18th, 2015 at 09:37 | #3

    The issue of graduates getting jobs is about to become a significant concern of mine I think. I have 2 student children (adults now) in 4th year in different courses.

    My initial impressions of matters are these;

    (1) They have to start applying for jobs and/or training placements about a year before graduating.

    (2) They will need a GPA of 6.5 before most employers will even consider them.

    (3) They apparently will need a significant set of other academic prizes, achievements and/or other socially recognisable achievements to add their resumes or again the employer is not interested.

    (4) They have to perform well in difficult online tests of both IQ and psychological profiling types.

    My kids are on the very borders of meeting these requirements. My subjective assessment which I won’t mention to them is they have about a 50% chance of landing a job using their qualifications in their first year after graduating. Heaven help all the students below their level.

    Again, my subjective assessment is that life is about to get a lot harder for all graduates (indeed all young people) when it comes to looking for employment. Statistics from past years, even recent past years, are going to be little guide to what is happening now. Opportunities for young people in Australia are falling off a cliff right now.

    It’s clear that a GPA of 6.5 is now a pass mark so far as employers are concerned. Is this because all courses have suffered a degradation in standards such that 6.5 is now merely competent? Or is competition so stiff that anyone below a distinction level (old fashion speak) can just forget it?

    A very intelligent, personable, capable and educated young person I know said. “Employers just make you feel bad about yourself all the time.”

    I really wonder what is happening in our society. I know is isn’t good. Our young people are filled with despair and alienation.

  3. May 18th, 2015 at 10:08 | #4

    A second question of sorts:

    RBC theorists tend to be very proud of the fact that the co-movement and volatility statistics predicted by their models align fairly well with similar observed statistics (w.r.t. output, consumption, savings etc.). To what extent do these kind of correlations mean anything? The massive conceptual and theoretical problems with RBC aside, do these numbers support it at all? Or is it just the case if you spend ages making complex flex price models that you’ll occasionally get things that look convincing?

  4. May 18th, 2015 at 13:34 | #5

    Ikonoclast at May 18th, 2015 at 09:37 asked:

    I really wonder what is happening in our society. I know is isn’t good. Our young people are filled with despair and alienation.

    This is an example of cause and effect.

    The cause is the globalising neo-liberal ‘small government’ economic ‘reforms’ that Keating and his heirs on both ‘sides’ of our Federal and state parliaments have imposed on Australia since 1983.

    The effect is that our society which is becoming ever more dysfunctional with higher unemployment, less career structure and more crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, health problems, environmental destruction, etc.

    A component of this is the ever higher immigration of skilled workers in place of workers trained in Australia being employed here. (This was know as the Section 457 Visa system, but I believe it now goes by another name.)

    As I may have written before, I remember a time when many workers would be trained in work time at there expense of their employers, whether government or private, and there was no need to study part-time, including late in the evenings or on weekends to get the additional necessary qualifications. (Another aspect of this scam is creeping credentialism, but, for now, I will leave that for another time.)

    One Federal Member of Parliament who has consistently spoken up against much of this is the Labor Member for Wills Kelvin Thomson.

  5. Donald Oats
    May 18th, 2015 at 14:18 | #6

    If there are any doubts we are knowingly walking into a future dystopian world rent asunder by catastrophic global warming, the most recent leaked Shell corporation documents put those doubts to rest, dead, buried, dug up and cremated, and buried again. Shell corporation staff are well aware that there corporate strategy, if pursued by themselves and probably by their competitors as well, is a dance with the Devil: an increase in global temperature of 4C, in the short term, is considered a shoo-in; an eventual rise of 6C is considered the expected long term result.

    These people are not just crazy, they are evil.

  6. Troy Prideaux
    May 18th, 2015 at 14:41 | #7

    James :
    This is an example of cause and effect.
    The cause is the globalising neo-liberal ‘small government’ economic ‘reforms’ that Keating and his heirs on both ‘sides’ of our Federal and state parliaments have imposed on Australia since 1983.

    Totally agree with that. Problem is, it’s a snowballing effect – our standard of living is increasing and our material wealth is increasing but there’s something that’s also happening to reduce our attention spans so as a society we struggle to analyse problems down below the top layers ie. corrective action and not preventative action. The fundamental pillars of society appear to be eroding like tunneling down to the root cause of these issues of why so many people are disengaged and alienated. Everything is driven by economics and for some reason we generally refuse to acknowledge this cancer even though we’re constantly reminded by its symptoms and hospital emergency depts and paramedics are at the coalface.

  7. jungney
    May 18th, 2015 at 15:54 | #8

    @Donald Oats
    Yep. I had to steel my resolve before reading the article at The Graud. The consciousness of the corporate heavies in such an industry beggars the imagination if they can calmly carry on a trajectory that is already locked in to more than two degrees rise this century let alone a worst case four degrees by 2100. I guess their ‘business model’ includes widespread devastation, slavery and a return to pre-modern values among the scant remaining population with them, somehow, still the recipients of whatever benefits might be realisable.

  8. May 18th, 2015 at 15:56 | #9

    My apologies for my mistake above at May 18th, 2015 at 13:34 | #5 :

    … I remember a time when many workers would be trained in work time at there expense of their employers, …

    … should have been:

    … I remember a time when many workers would be trained in work time at the expense of their employers, …

    Donald Oats, on May 18th, 2015 at 14:18 | #6 :

    The link to the article at the Guardian seems broken. The following works for me:

    Shell accused of strategy risking catastrophic climate change

    Troy Prideaux at May 18th, 2015 at 14:41 | #7 : Thank you.

    Troy Prideaux wrote :

    … our standard of living is increasing and our material wealth is increasing …

    Even for many of those still on middle class incomes, who are not forced to work in sweatshops and/or for unpredictable casual hours, we seem to agree that their apparent affluence is illusory.

    Whilst they may be able to buy all sorts of fantastic high-tech appliances, many are still working longer hours, commuting for longer distances each day to and from communities in which they know fewer and fewer of those living in their streets.

    Expenses for many, including for rent, mortgages and education or health care whether private or public, are climbing.

    Given the unpredictability of free market globalised capitalism, few have long term financial security. Furthermore the ‘free’ market is unsustainably consuming the world’s finite bounty of non-renewable natural resources.This cannot last, so I think you are correct to say:

    The fundamental pillars of society appear to be eroding like tunnelling down to the root cause of these issues of why so many people are disengaged and alienated.

    Troy Prideaux wrote :

    Everything is driven by economics …

    I don’t think economics is necessarily a bad thing, but a proper economic model, unlike neoliberal ‘economic’ fundamentalism, would attempt to account for all that which is of value and not just that on which monetary values can easily be placed. This would include: community cohesion, urban tranquillity, aesthetics, long term sustainability, etc.

  9. derrida derider
    May 18th, 2015 at 17:00 | #10

    Ed, if you want a job creating and enforcing competition law rather than protecting against it just join the public service. Same goes for environmental economics, etc.

  10. Sid
    May 18th, 2015 at 17:15 | #11

    Sounds like US Democrats like Krugman are waking up about the TPP:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

  11. Tim Macknay
    May 18th, 2015 at 17:29 | #12

    @Ikonoclast

    I really wonder what is happening in our society. I know is isn’t good. Our young people are filled with despair and alienation.

    Without wanting to belittle the challenges young people face, are you sure you’re not projecting your own admittedly gloomy outlook onto them, Ikon? The young people I know are much more likely to be socially engaged and motivated than alienated and despairing, notwithstanding the fact that today’s graduates and school leavers are going out into worsening economic conditions. But they would hardly be the first generation to experience that. Young people are also better educated, and have more access to information about virtually everything, than ever before.

    James’ comments about unemployment, crime and health problems are mostly inaccurate hyperbole. Crime and drug abuse are in long-term decline. In general, health is better than it has been in the past, and continuing to improve. Heart disease is down. Sugar consumption is down. Obesity levels appear to have stabilised. Cancer is more survivable and treatable than ever. Life expectancy is still increasing. Depression diagnosis is up, but it’s debatable whether this represents a genuine increase or merely an increased propensity to diagnose and prescribe.

    Domestic violence statistics are an interesting anomaly in Australia – they seem to be bucking both the downward trend in other types of violent crime in Australia, and the downward trend in domestic violence in comparable societies (USA, Canada, UK). However, as with depression, it remains to be seen whether the apparent increase is based on an actual increase in the prevalence of domestic violence, or an increased willingness to report it.

    Of course, there are plenty of things to worry about. It’s true that unemployment is increasing, (although it has quite a way to go before it reaches the levels of the 1980s, let alone the Paul Keating recession). Environmental deterioration is real and serious (although blaming it on neoliberalism is silly), and many costs of living have risen in comparison with a decade ago. But these things need to be put in perspective – the picture is not all bad. IMHO, wailing and gnashing of teeth doesn’t achieve much – better to focus on how to solve the problems we face.

  12. Florence nee Fed up
    May 18th, 2015 at 18:42 | #13

    Yes there was a time when industry took on school leaders into entry level jobs, training them in work hours. These do not exist today.

  13. Megan
    May 18th, 2015 at 18:47 | #14

    First it was Indonesia, then Malaysia, and now Thailand has towed refugee boats (containing thousands of desperate and dying refugees) back out to sea.

    I’ve just read that the Philippines is also going to do that.

    Australia will end up being ashamed of this legacy one day (and it is just as much the fault of the ALP as LNP).

  14. Ikonoclast
    May 18th, 2015 at 19:34 | #15

    @Tim Macknay

    I don’t know. I guess we will have to examine the facts as they come in.

    ” Up to 65,000 university students – 30 per cent of graduates – will be jobless four months after finishing their studies, and those finding employment will be earning less, the federal government has forecast.” – SMH June 2014.

    I guess those predicted possible facts must be now in as confirming or dis-confirming evidence. Does anyone know what the stats are now in May 2015? Have we we hit that 30% prediction? If we are at it or near it then it would be interesting considering the fact that many graduates are expected to apply for positions 6 months to 12 months BEFORE graduating. Yes, you read that correctly, the word is “BEFORE”. Presumably, a preliminary sort is made by employers, and pending final successful results, the outstanding students would already be penciled in for likely job offers. Thus the chances of frictional unemployment or first placement friction having any impact on these numbers must be very low.

    The Fin Review in Aug 2014 said;

    “Graduate employment worse since 1992-1993 recession.”
    “Two-thirds of university graduates in some courses are failing to find a full-time job within four months of ­completing their course.”

    I would be astonished if things are better now in 2015. In fact, I feel certain they are worse though I admit I have seen no new comprehensive data.

    ” GRADUATE UNEMPLOYMENT AT 20-YEAR HIGH” – Australia Unemployment Union.

    “In February 2015, the ABS stated that the amount of people actively seeking full-time employment jumped up to 1.838 million (made up of 777,300 unemployed and 1.06 million underemployed). This marked a staggering 39% increase since 2008. However, this was only half of the problem: in 2015 the amount of job vacancies listed by the Department of Employment almost halved to 159,400, resulting in job seekers outnumbering job vacancies 11 to 1. Considering this alarming increase of job seekers per job vacancies – which increased a staggering 64% in 7 years – it comes as no surprise that university graduates are struggling to find full-time employment.” – Australia Unemployment Union.

    All of this paints a picture of the youth segment of the economy being in a depression.
    20% of 15 to 19-year-olds unemployed.
    14.2 % of 15-24-year-olds looking for work.

    Under current neoliberal policies from LNP and ALP (they offer nothing else) this will only get worse. In fact, a lot of “getting worse” is already locked in because of our atrocious economic policy settings. A Greece-like fate is a near certainty with current economic policy.

  15. May 19th, 2015 at 02:13 | #16

    Tim Macknay wrote on May 18th, 2015 at 17:29 | #12 :

    James comments about unemployment, crime and health problems are mostly inaccurate hyperbole. …

    I note that Tim Macknay subsequently concedes:

    Depression diagnosis is up, …

    Domestic violence statistics … seem to be bucking both the downward trend

    … unemployment is increasing, …

    Environmental deterioration is real and serious … and many costs of living have risen in comparison with a decade ago.

    It’s obvious to anyone informed about current events that Australia has gone dramtically downhill since economic neoliberal idology was imposed in 1983 as “Florence nee Fed up” (on May 18th, 2015 at 18:42), Ikonoclast (on May 18th, 2015 at 19:34) and even Tim Macknay, have further confirmed. This does not preclude eposidic improvements in some regards, but until Tim Macknay produces the evidence, I won’t be convinced that:

    Crime and drug abuse are in long-term decline. In general, health is better than it has been in the past, and continuing to improve. Heart disease is down. Sugar consumption is down. Obesity levels appear to have stabilised. Cancer is more survivable and treatable than ever.

    From anecdotal evidence and my own observation, it seems that the level of dysfunctionality in society is much greater than it was in 1983 and it seems that the health of many people is going downhill and obesity is going up. One cause is additives, including sucrose, in the unnaturally manufactured food on supermarket shelves that forms much of many people’s diet. Another is the sedantary work environment that many office workers endure for ever longer hours.

  16. May 19th, 2015 at 02:27 | #17

    There Will Be No Saudi Inspection of This Ship! Message from Caleb Maupin onboard the “Iran Shahed”

    Iran has sent an aid vessel to carry emergency supplies to the people of Yemen who have been illegally invaded and attacked by Saudi Arabia – an ally of the US, of Israel, and of Australia. The situation is explosive – locally and globally. The people are starving. Therefore people on the aid ship are trying to make sure that the world knows that this is a ship bringing help, and should be given safe passage. One such person is Caleb Maupin, who emailed several people on Mon, 18 May 2015 16:55:48 +0430 with the following message:

    “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is mercilessly slaughtering people in Yemen, has absolutely no right to inspect this vessel. Neither does the United States of America or Israel. The Iranian government has made that absolutely clear, and all of us in the delegation of peace activists from Germany, France, and the United States absolutely agree with this decision. An inspection from the United Nations or the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society would absolutely be permitted and welcomed. These are international bodies delegated for such tasks. However, allowing an inspection of this ship from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would recognize that somehow the people of Yemen are the property of the Saudis, which they are not. Yemenis are fighting and dying to assert this fact each day.”

    The Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in agreement with Yemen, is shipping 2,500 tons of medical supplies on this cargo vessel. Both Iran and Yemen are sovereign countries. They have the right to interact peacefully with each other, without interference.

    Saudi Arabia has no say in the matter. …

  17. sunshine
    May 19th, 2015 at 11:23 | #18

    When I left school anyone could walk into a job . If you didnt like it you could simply get another one the next day. Im not the best dog eater so Im not sure how I would cope if I was leaving school today, i would probably be a loser in this game of economic Darwinism, I may have turned to crime. I was lucky.

    Arguing that ‘we could be worse off’ doesn’t cut it, we could be better off too. Its not just ‘us’ that we should consider either .New Internationalist magazine tells me there are more hungry people in the world today than there were 20 years ago (and no -the fact that the worlds population is bigger now doesnt make it ok). The promotion of selfishness is wrong. We have an abundance of wealth and resources in this world. Despite this, in the most privileged parts of the most privileged countries, people somehow still feel they are on the brink of an abyss every day -and act accordingly. If we ,who have the most ,act like that ,how can we expect anyone else to act better ? Then we point down at them and say ‘look how badly they are behaving ,they dont deserve help- they bought this on themselves’.

    [An unrelated aside :- our brains evolved to have lots of idle time. It is relaxing and thats when we do our creative thought. Rapid-fire surfing of the internet is not relaxing or creative (but gathering data can be useful).]

  18. Tim Macknay
    May 19th, 2015 at 11:29 | #19

    @Ikonoclast
    Yes, it certainly does appear that today’s graduates are going into the worst economic conditions in a generation – it’s only marginally better than when I entered the job market during the Keating recession, and may well get as bad or worse. But I don’t think that’s in any way inconsistent with what I wrote.

    @James

    It’s obvious to anyone informed about current events that Australia has gone dramatically downhill since economic neoliberal idology was imposed in 1983

    The trouble is, James, this is just a blanket assertion. What do you mean by “dramatically downhill?”. Undoubtedly some things have gotten worse (notably environmental conditions), but other things are measurably better (such as education levels, and real income, for example). The reason I said that blaming environmental deterioriation on neoliberalism is silly, is because environmental deterioriation has been going on pretty much consistently for a couple of centuries, regardless of the prevailing economic policy settings. I’m not trying to defend ‘neoliberal ideology’, BTW, just responding to what I saw as an unqualified and incorrect assertion that everything is terrible.

    From anecdotal evidence and my own observation, it seems that the level of dysfunctionality in society is much greater than it was in 1983 and it seems that the health of many people is going downhill and obesity is going up.

    There’s your trouble right there – anecdotal observation isn’t a very reliable way of measuring crime or public health, or other broad social conditions. A better way is to examine the readily available statistics. Try, for example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the Australian Institute of Criminology, for example. If you examine those statistics, you’ll find that crime and violence has been in declining for more than two decades, and chronic disease and mortality has been steadily declining for significantly longer than that.

    As for “producing the evidence”, I’m not under any obligation to do so. But it’s readily available, and I’ve given some suggested sources above. But feel free to believe whatever you feel like, James. I will say though, that personally, I find the propensity for making broad claims, based on nothing more than a vague impression, without bothering to even examine the available range of information, to be very unpersuasive.

  19. Ikonoclast
    May 19th, 2015 at 13:34 | #20

    @Tim Macknay

    The broader issue to me is the continued pursuit of policies which are not working. I mean in particular what may be broadly called neoliberal and/or monetarist policies. Of course, such a statement as this calls into question what one means by “not working”. Clearly, current policies are working and working very well for some people. Some people are getting wealthier rather rapidly.

    I would say however that these policies are not working overall for most people. In Australia, real wages are declining and the wages share of the economy is declining. These are fully verifiable facts. Most people depend on wages to live. Youth and students in particular are getting a very bad deal from these policy settings. I put the youth and student unemployment rates (and possible indicators for the trends) in my post above so I won’t repeat myself.

    Suffice it to say, that if these unemployment rates were replicated for the whole of our society then people would be crying out (with real justification) that we were in a depression. Yet they tolerate these rates for youth. Our youth are living in an economic depression, or near to, yet very few seem to care. It is almost never mentioned in mainstream media or political debate.

    This damage to youthful potential which is happening right now is going cause great problems in the years ahead. The indicators you refer to currently are the product of what happened a decade ago or so. There are lags as I am sure you appreciate. When today’s youth with their damaged self-esteem, damaged hopes, damaged employment prospects and damaged income earning capacities are in their 30s and still struggling in all senses then the damage to real lives and prospects will very likely start manifesting in the statistics.

  20. Tim Macknay
    May 19th, 2015 at 14:10 | #21

    @Ikonoclast
    I still don’t see anything inconsistent with what I wrote. But it does further persuade me more that you’re largely projecting your own personal gloominess onto the young. You seem to be saying they’re more-or-less doomed, or at least will be permanently maimed, by the economic conditions they’re going into. I agree with you that many economic policies contribute to their difficulties, but I confess I’m struggling to see how your doom narrative assists them in any way.

  21. Donald Oats
    May 19th, 2015 at 16:14 | #22

    Bart Simpson, upon receiving some fatherly advice, succinctly rephrased it as “Gotcha. Can’t win, don’t try.”

    Sadly, the doom narrative isn’t far off the reality. In the developed economies, very few people have permanent jobs now: those that do tend to be in the wealthiest set of society. Around 75% of jobs are temporary, and/or less than fulltime, and this is because it is what the employer wants, not the employee (mainly). So, there has been an inexorable shift from the 1960’s single income, stable employment model, towards a fractured series of temping jobs, punctuated by periods of unknowable duration without an income.

    Right now, I personally know more than half a dozen 50+ year old people who have no income and little support, and several of them live in their parents’ homes for lack of anywhere else to stay. These are predominantly PhD qualified people. We have a bizarre economic system that is so wasteful of human potential. Some of these people have been unemployed for over a decade.

    I also know people who would rather shun the whole Centrelink system than be tortured by its ridiculously onerous compliance rules. There are no jobs for them because the employers do not want people of that age, and do not want highly qualified people, presumably because of assumptions about their tolerance of (boring?) work, or fear that they might be smarter than the boss. The system just grinds them down until they disappear, still unemployed. Who knows what employers truly think, but the outcome is clear: no new jobs for the over-fifty person.

    The other looming difficulty for these people is that they need a roof over their heads until they die, something which might be forty years away. Who pays for the cost of that, if society isn’t willing to find a place in the workforce for such people now?

    I watched, as a young observer, the early waves of restructuring, of downsizing, during the early 1980’s, the late 1980’s, the recession we had to have, then again in the late 1990’s, and once again during and after the Tech Wreck of April 2000, and then again as the aftermath of the GFC, and finally—as a middle-aged observer and unwilling participant—the Great Science Purge of 2013/2014 under the new Abbott government. Is this really the best economic system humanity can aspire to?

  22. Donald Oats
    May 19th, 2015 at 16:31 | #23

    The Bush Doctrine destroyed Iraq, and in effect aided the establishment of ISIS. Sadly the only way to defeat such a determined enemy is to confront it on the ground, and to fight inch by inch to remove it. Now that ISIS has installed puppet regimes to control many of its city and town conquests, it is all the more difficult to expunge them: air-strikes cannot eliminate ground forces hidden in the towns and cities, but it can inadvertently recruit people to the ISIS “cause”, especially if they have suffered collateral damage from air strikes. Air strikes cannot remove puppet regimes, only boots on the ground and in the towns can do that.

    I don’t see any easy way out of this mire. If we (the coalition of the batsh*t crazy) walk away and leave the middle east to the fanatical, who knows how that will play out. If we go in and fight like crazy, then clearly there would be many casualties, and still no guarantee of an eventually stable peace.

    For all the hand-wringing the Right do, warning of unintended consequences for some mild policy the Left might want, the Right really messed this one up. The so-called War on Terror has been an epic policy failure so far.

  23. jungney
    May 19th, 2015 at 16:55 | #24

    Then there is the matter, for the young, of daily facing down the fear of a future which the stakes are potentially the sixth great extinction, radically diminished resources, mass death of humans and, above all, the loss of first nature in all its multiplicity and complexity. Moreover, according to the UN Structured Expert Dialogue, two degrees is too much heat to accept as a basline. It wants one point five to allow point five as a buffer. On top of that there is this not impossible prospect:

    The world could be 2C° warmer in as little as two decades, according to the leading US climate scientist and “hockey stick” author, Dr Michael E. Mann. Writing in Scientific American in March 2014 (with the maths explained here), Mann says that new calculations “indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, global warming will rise to 2C° by 2036” and to avoid that threshold “nations will have to keep carbon dioxide levels below 405 parts per million”, a level we have just about reached already. Mann says the notion of a warming “pause” is false.

    My youngest, nineteen, simply says that while he acts and plans as if the future will be familiar from the past, nevertheless, to do so, “I can’t think about a future that might not be there at all”.

    They’re going to be psychologically very tough to even want to be there.

  24. Tim Macknay
    May 19th, 2015 at 17:04 | #25

    @jungney
    I’m not quite sure what your point is. But instilling a sense of paralysis in the young certainly doesn’t increase the chances of actually solving these problems.

    The other thing that irritates me about this mentality is the idea that these considerable challenges and threats mean a debilitated and stunted life. In the 1960s, a lot of young people decided that, because of the very significant probability of imminent nuclear annihilation, there was no point making long-term plans and they were better off going surfing. This decision resulted in many of them living long, happy lives.

    My general impression is that the young are considerably smarter and more resourceful than anyone commenting on this thread. This bollocks about them being doomed is just selling them short.

  25. Ikonoclast
    May 19th, 2015 at 18:48 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    OK, thanks Tim, I get it now. Your last comment reveals a person channeling standard right-wing libertarian bilk.

  26. Ikonoclast
    May 19th, 2015 at 19:05 | #27

    On another topic, I note the new Indooroopilly Tunnel, Brisbane (is it called Legacy Way?) will have point-to-point speeding ticket systems installed. Now I get that tunnels need to kept especially safe and that speeding is unsafe. On the other hand, one can see it as paying a fee for the privilege of having a higher chance of getting a speeding ticket. Who is going to buy that deal?

  27. Tim Macknay
    May 19th, 2015 at 19:38 | #28

    @Ikonoclast
    I find that bizarre and insulting. Would you care to explain?

  28. anthony nolan
    May 19th, 2015 at 19:44 | #29

    (no longer jungney)

    Neither of my kids is paralysed by this scenario. Nor am I. Both my kids have been agential in defending the last great stand of whitebox woodland in NSW from the expansion of the Whitehaven Maules Creek mine. They have both been through arrests, court appearances and so on. Its called seasoning. One is doing postgrad, the other undergrad, both earn a living as musos. They both belong to and engage with the Australian Student Environment Network which organises many events including an annual, campus based camp for education and strategic training. Most of these camps feature meditations and teachings on ‘how to keep your head up’.

    I’m pleased with your comment above because it allows discussion of the affective elements of our political situation. I don’t subscribe to the exhausted “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” nostrum. Nor am I a fatalist or a grin and bear it man. How we feel counts. It is far more likely that fatalism is a much greater curb on an active political response than a realistically pessimistic appraisal of the facts and the science.

    After that it is more effective to train one’s self in practices like ‘active hope’ as taught by American systems theorist and Buddhist Joanna Macy than it is to proceed with hopeless personal practices like despair, fatalism or unschooled hope. The first page of her site is headed ‘how to face the mess we are without going crazy’. I like the header because, it appears to me, that the global oligopoly has indeed already gone crazy along with a good proportion of its hangers on and functionaries. So, craziness is a very predictable response to this crisis. Mass craziness, whereby entire nations turn their backs on the most wretched of the earth, those in peril on the sea, is already entrenched.

    When it comes to what are the material conditions that constitute the bottom line for a life worth living, I’m no relativist. So, whatever their future may hold, absent first nature on at least the scale, complexity and beauty that I have enjoyed, it is clear that their future prospects are diminished compared to mine at the same age. This is no small thing, including as it does, the most stunning rry of human cultures the most vulenerable of which are soon to disappear.

    I recently saw a photo essay of a surfer in a barrel containing lots of floating debris. Indonesia, I think. Nasty. The surfing community might have been much more productive as an environmental agent if it hadn’t also pandered to self indulgence, hedonism and individualism. If it had been, it wouldn’t be surfing in sewage, plastic and garbage.

  29. May 19th, 2015 at 20:06 | #30

    Tim Macknay wrote on May 19th, 2015 at 11:29 | #19 :

    … anecdotal observation isn’t a very reliable way of measuring crime or public health, or other broad social conditions. …

    As for “producing the evidence”, I’m not under any obligation to do so. But it’s readily available, and I’ve given some suggested sources above. …

    The following posts concur with my own anecdotal evidence:

    Ikonoclast on May 18th, 2015 at 09:37; May 18th, 2015 at 19:34; May 19th, 2015 at 13:34 and May 19th, 2015 at 18:48

    Donald Oats on May 18th, 2015 at 14:18; May 18th, 2015 at 19:34 and May 19th, 2015 at 16:14

    jungney on May 18th, 2015 at 15:54

    Florence nee Fed up on May 18th, 2015 at 18:42

    sunshine on May 19th, 2015 at 11:23

    jungney on May 18th, 2015 at 15:54 and May 19th, 2015 at 16:55

    Even you have conceded that much of what the rest of us have claimed is true.

    So I don’t see why I should feel obliged to wade through abs -dot- gov -dot- au to find data, going back for more than three decades, that you claim will refute the claims made by myself and the others listed above. If you won’t produce the evidence, then I think that the rest of us are entitled to assume that it does not exist.

  30. Tim Macknay
    May 19th, 2015 at 20:10 | #31

    @anthony nolan
    Thank you. Sounds like your kids are alright then. I agree that the loss of natural diversity does lead to a genuine diminishment, and that is also a major concern of mine. It’s true that the hedonistic impulse in surfing has too often won out over its environmentalist and spiritual impulses, although I think surfers can only take a portion of the blame for ocean pollution. I’m not familiar with the ‘active hope’ concept, but it sounds good and I will look up the Joanne Macy work you’ve mentioned.

  31. jt
    May 19th, 2015 at 20:49 | #32

    I think anyone over the age 15 with an IQ above 100 and a moderate interest in public affairs would know comments like this are nonsense:

    The effect [of the Keating reforms] is that our society which is becoming ever more dysfunctional with higher unemployment, less career structure and more crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, health problems, environmental destruction, etc.

    It is boring to have to point these things out, but here is a federal govt life expectancy chart for Australia from 1888 to 2013. As is common knowledge, life expectancy has increased and did stop stop or slow down Post-Keating. Hopefully we can agree that life expectancy is a reasonable proxy for health.

  32. jt
    May 19th, 2015 at 21:14 | #33

    On crime, the National Homicide Monitoring Program noted that homicide has reached an historic low.

    Again I would suggest homicide as a reasonable proxy for violent crime, the year on year figures for which are difficult to compare because of different reporting rates etc …

  33. jt
    May 19th, 2015 at 21:29 | #34

    Anthony Nolan:

    Both my kids have been agential in defending the last great stand of whitebox (sic) woodland in NSW from the expansion of the Whitehaven Maules Creek mine.

    That’s the spirit. Assuming you actually meant “white box”, Eucalyptus albens, I have planted plenty of these myself along with its close cousin, yellow box, Eucalyptus melliodora, which prefers a slightly more fertile soil. Both turn into very handsome trees, although they are slow growing.

    I think I must have planted or direct seeded 10,000 trees by myself throughout my life in a voluntary capacity. I wish more whingers and moaners would get off their @rses and doing something positive rather than simply bag people (I’m looking at you Ikono) who have a more positive and pro-active philosopy of life.

    Every generation has merchants of gloom- “the black plague will kill us all!!”, “reds under the beds!”, “Mutually Assured Destruction!” etc etc etc.. Sure these things are real and they must be spoken about but sitting on one’s soft flabby fat @rse and whinging only demoralises people. It is also a narcissistic self-indulgence.

  34. May 19th, 2015 at 23:26 | #35

    jt at 19th, 2015 at 21:29

    Your apparent past achievements in the regeneration of lost Australian native bushland are still quite small in comparison to the past and ongoing destruction of native Australian native bushland.

    Australian native bushland is being destroyed in the following ways: the so-called annual ‘hazard reduction burning’ of 5% of Victoria’s native vegetation each year supposedly to reduce the risk of bushfires, the unsustainable woodchipping of so much of our native bushlands and the clearing of bushland for ongoing urban sprawl driven by imposed population growth.

    If circumstances for most Australians had improved as much as was implied in 1983, instead of going so far backwards as attested to by the overwhelming majority of posts here, I would have expected that a good many more people would be able to similarly give their free time to native bush regeneration and other worthwhile projects.

    jungney, I mistakenly partially duplicated the listing of your contributions above on May 19th, 2015 at 20:06. My apologies.

  35. Donald Oats
    May 20th, 2015 at 01:53 | #36

    It’s no crime to note problems around us even as we try, each in our own way, to do something about it. It’s a bit of a stretch to think that complaining about something means a person is just sitting on their arse, doing nothing about it.

    I’ve done plenty. I’m trying to do more. Doesn’t mean I’m happy watching big companies steam-rolling their way through, creating even more problems to tackle, unnecessarily creating even more problems, I should say. That’s what peeves me. Companies like Shell are chock full of (extremely wealthy) senior people who know perfectly well what damage they are doing, and yet they go on doing it anyway. That’s worth a grizzle.

  36. Ikonoclast
    May 20th, 2015 at 08:35 | #37

    The Overton window has moved so far to the right and taken so many people with it, that many have essentially become right-wing libertarians without even knowing what they are.

  37. anthony nolan
    May 20th, 2015 at 09:43 | #38

    @jt
    Planting trees can be very therapeutic but it is only one strategy on the long front.

    I’ve been told that land clearing in Australia escalated rapidly at the end of WWII when cheap, ex-military tracked vehicles became available. The same informant claimed that, in this period, the trip from Qld to Vic, roughly Goondiwindi to Yarrawonga via Dubbo, had forest on both sides of the road almost all of the way. Not any more.

    There is no single, correct position, attitude or type of engagement when the project is to sustain an habitable planet. Protest has a role, as does Ikonoklast’s type of political economy along with bush remediation and regeneration. The best agents are those who operate on the basis of respect and radical inclusivity. They build movements.

    Speaking of whom, movement builders, for mine one of the most effective current radical voices is Jamie Oliver notwithstanding that he is in cahoots with a supermarket chain. He has succeeded in convincing many people that cooking and eating are better options for living than sucking up industrial slop from the mass chains. Who would have thought that a cook could have such an impact?

  38. jt
    May 20th, 2015 at 10:08 | #39

    @Donald Oats

    It is no crime to note problems and I explicitly said they should be talked about. I expect global warming and ocean acidification will indirectly result in poverty and death for millions of people mostly in the developing world before they are tackled with the zeal that is needed.

    It is a crime (ethically and strategically) to lie through your teeth, which is what you did above in your comment about “recent leaked Shell corporation documents.” I followed your link and it says nothing at all about leaked documents. The document it talks about is the New Lens Scenarios which are publicly available on the Shell website and linked to in the article you cite and which rely on IEA projections. I’m have trouble finding the sinister evil thingie you talk about although of course it would be nice if Shell would get out of the fossil fuel game altogether and put its huge capital into renewables.

    I don’t care if someone is a social democrat, a socialist, a libertarian or a conservative or something else. I just don’t like lies.

  39. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 10:51 | #40

    @Ikonoclast

    The Overton window has moved so far to the right and taken so many people with it, that many have essentially become right-wing libertarians without even knowing what they are.

    That’s no explanation, it’s hand waving. So it was just a throwaway insult, then? Disappointing. I thought your level of discourse was better than that.

  40. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 11:04 | #41

    @anthony nolan

    I’ve been told that land clearing in Australia escalated rapidly at the end of WWII when cheap, ex-military tracked vehicles became available.

    That is true, and I think it is relevant when comparing what the younger generation faces with that faced with previous ones. The experience of loss of the diversity and richness of ‘first nature’ certainly won’t be unique to the young generation, although it might be more extreme and traumatic, depending on what transpires.

    My own late grandfather, who was a farmer and conservationist (contradictory as those things may appear from a certain perspective), and who died in 2001, experienced the transformation of his landscape in the Western Australian southwest from one which, in his boyhood, was abundant in native marsupials such as quendas (bandicoots), boodies (kangaroo-rats) and chuditches (quolls), as well as large reptiles like womas (pythons), and in which the watercourses were fresh and populated with native mussels, clams and perch, to one which was, in his maturity, entirely bereft of these creatures, with saline waterways and rising dryland salinity, due to the impact of the postwar land clearing program and introduced pest species such as foxes, cats and rabbits. I have no doubt that he experienced a sense of personal loss form this experience, which in part drove his conservation efforts. In his later years, he became interested in the new ecosystems that had sprung up as a result of the increased salinity in parts of the landscape. That perhaps reflected his own resilience, as well as the resilience of living systems.

  41. jt
    May 20th, 2015 at 12:32 | #42

    The Overton Window hasn’t moved so far that an anti-modernity, quasi-religious milleniarian doomsday system of belief could be reasonably considered progressive and left wing.

  42. anthony nolan
    May 20th, 2015 at 12:52 | #43

    @Tim Macknay
    That’s interesting, what you say about your grandfather. It accords with Don Watson’s account, ‘The Bush’. He says that ‘we’ve buggered it up’ and in a recent interview commented that you can’t carry out all that destruction without creating an ongoing, lingering sense of remorse. From a review:

    Nonetheless, in his concluding chapter Watson is assertive. Old-growth forest logging, or cattle-grazing in the High Country of Victoria, ‘‘strike me as degenerate acts. This is not a moral judgment but a response akin to what we feel at seeing the Buddhas of Bamiyan blown up by the Taliban.’’ Returned to live in the bush himself, he says he suffers a guilty sense that he owes his fortunate life ‘‘to a host of destructive acts, the scale of past atrocities dismays me’’.

    If I could find just one cattle man around where I live who had any sense of remorse I’d be grateful.

  43. May 20th, 2015 at 13:36 | #44

    As noted above on May 19th, 2015 at 02:13, Tim Macknay, who, contrary to the anecdotal evidence of myself and at least five others here (see May 19th, 2015 at 20:06), maintains that Australia has improved, and not gotten worse, since 1983, conceded that :

    Depression diagnosis is up, …

    … unemployment is increasing, …

    Environmental deterioration is real and serious … and many costs of living have risen in comparison with a decade ago.

    I also note the increase in the epidemic of Ice (aka metamphetamine) addiction Australia was being discussed just before now on ABC Radio National’s “The World Today”

    jt says the “[problems] should be talked about, but those who seem to me to be trying to talk about the problems on this forum are labelled by jt as “whingers”, “moaners” and “merchants of gloom”.

    What jt is apparently trying to do is bury our recent past history. That history shows up what a crock the official dogma of “small government” economic neoliberalism really is.

    Regarding jt’s admonishment to “get off [our] @rses and doing something positive” I note that 1000s in Ecuador [are pitching] in to plant nearly 650,000 trees in one day. This is an example of how state resources can facilitate useful volunteer work. I don’t see how “small government” could achieve this on such a scale, particularly in Australia in the state that it now is.

    Ecuador, by the way, has given asylum to fellow Victorian Julian Assange in its London embassy. Julian Assange is there to avoid being extradited to Sweden, ostensibly to face trumped up charges of sexual assault. The real reason for the attempted extradition is so that he can be extradited to the United States to be imprisoned for 35 years like fellow whistleblower Chelsea Manning for revealing to the world, amongst other United States’ war crimes, “Collateral Murder” in Iraq.

  44. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 13:37 | #45

    @James

    So I don’t see why I should feel obliged to wade through abs -dot- gov -dot- au to find data, going back for more than three decades, that you claim will refute the claims made by myself and the others listed above. If you won’t produce the evidence, then I think that the rest of us are entitled to assume that it does not exist.

    You don’t have to feel obligated to do anything James, although I don’t think you’re ‘entitled’ to assumed anything either. 😉

    As you’re no doubt aware, ‘producing the evidence’ isn’t easy to do in the context of a blog thread. That’s why I simply suggested the most obvious sources of the relevant evidence. If I post a bunch of links, my comment will end up in automod purgatory (I’ve already tried it). So the most I can do is be a buit more specific about providing the sources. So here goes:

    Unemployment: On the RBA web site, there’s a 2012 speech by the Deputy Governor entitled ‘The Labour Market, Structural Change and Recent Economic Developments”. It has an easy-to-eyeball graph showing unemployment from 1972-2012. You can see from the graph that the unemployment rate now is below what is was during the latter half of the 1970s, although you could quite reasonably conclude that the big spikes in unemployment during the 1983 Fraser/Howard and 1990 Hawke/Keating recession show that the neoliberal reforms didn’t exactly help the unemployment situation (!), nonetheless, in the latter part of the 1990s unemployment fell significantly, down to levels not seen since before the stagflation of the 1970s, and is only now going up again.

    Crime: On the Australian Institute of Criminology web site, go to the Australian Crime: Facts & Figures section. You’ll find a bunch of crime statistics there. Unfortunately the crime figures don’t go all the way back to 1983 – just to 1996. They show ups and downs – homicide on a significant downward trends. Assaults and sexual assaults experienced an increase during the mid-2000s but are now down below their 1996 levels, in population terms. Robbery and property crimes show a significant decreasing trend.

    Health: for heart disease, go to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare web site, and look up ‘cardiovascular health trends’. For cancer, on the same web site, look up ‘australian cancer incidence and mortality’. On sugar consumption (this is a bit trickier), go to the Commonwealth Department of Health web site and look up the 1995 National Nutrition Survey. There a publication called ‘comparable data on food and nutrient intake and physical measurements from the 1983, 1985 and 1995 national nutrition surveys’. That has sugar consumption data. Then go to the ABS web site and look up the Australian Health Survey 2011-13. There’s a section called ‘usual nutrient intakes’ that gives some indicative sugar consumption data. It looks like sugar consumption increased between 1983 and 1995, but has declined since then. I think I was wrong on obesity, at least wrt Australia. It seems to have stabilised in several countries, but is still increasing here.

    I’m not putting any more info in this comment as it is already an essay. So there you go, I’ve done as much as I can to provide you with some of the evidence without taking up my whole day. I hope you appreciate it. 😉

  45. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 13:55 | #46

    @James
    Ah. I see you’ve posted another comment while I was typing up my last one. There’s certainly a media panic about methamphetamine use (as about a lot of things), but the statistics don’t show that it’s increasing.

    Try the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s web site and look up the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2013 report, which found no trend of increase in the use of methamphetamine since the previous survey in 2010. There’s also the Illicit Drug Reporting Scheme run by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, which also found no significant increasing trend in methamphetamine use (a slight increase in the use of ice was offset by a slight decrease in the use of base).

    In general, the data shows an increase in some kinds of drug use (cannabis, cocaine, heroin) during the 1990s, followed by a significant decrease in the early 00’s, and a levelling off to current rates. Alcohol consumption shows a significant secular decline from a peak in the early 1970s (after a large postwar rise), until a levelling off around the beginning of the 21st century, and it’s remained around the same level since then (notwithstanding media panics about alcohol-fuelled violence, which has also declined).

  46. Ivor
    May 20th, 2015 at 14:13 | #47

    Absolutely horrific details through ABC sources are emerging from Ballarat.

    I won’t go into details – it can all be summed-up in two words…

    Sicko Catholics

    See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-20/child-sex-abuse-victim-says-teeth-pulled-out-by-nuns-with-pliers/6483562

  47. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 14:20 | #48

    @James

    Tim Macknay … maintains that Australia has improved, and not gotten worse, since 1983

    Also, I never said that. I said that your comments about unemployment, crime and health problems (i.e. you said they had all gotten worse since 1983) were mostly inaccurate hyperbole. Which they are. I acknowledged from the beginning that a great many things are worse (although I wasn’t ‘conceding’ anything by doing so) and I’ve never maintained otherwise.

    If you want to argue, at least argue about something that someone has actually disagreed with you about, fah Chrissake.

  48. anthony nolan
    May 20th, 2015 at 14:43 | #49

    @jt
    If you’re unaware of Guy McPherson’s blog, ‘Nature Bats Last’, then you ain’t heard nuthin’ yet when it comes to gloomy prognostications. The website is the only one I’ve ever come across, unrelated to mental health, that has front page advice for those thinking of ending it all. They probably need to put it on every page because he argues that a realistic appraisal is of ‘Near Term Human Extinction’. His personal info will make you want to poke out your own eyes:

    Guy is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for twenty award-winning years. His scholarly work, which has for many years focused on conservation of biological diversity, has produced a dozen book and hundreds of articles. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he puts into practice his lifelong interest in sustainable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of his rural community.

    He attracts very vulnerable people and is, in my view, a sick puppy. I’ve met one of his followers in Australia and after a half hour conversation felt like in been buried under wet concrete.

    As to the left being ‘anti-modernity’, well, who with knowledge of the Holocaust could remain an ardent modernist? If there was any point at all to the post modern move it was the demand for an accounting of the historical reality of modernity rather than the Disney version where we are all white, well of and happy with our lot.

  49. jt
    May 20th, 2015 at 15:25 | #50

    James,

    Tim and I have provided ample evidence from authoritative sources that refute most of your claims as well as the reasons why across time comparisons for others are not necessarily valid. I note you have also dishonestly misrepresented what we’ve said and engaged in selective quotation. For the record, I know many things about the status quo are truely rotten but that is not a licence to make stuff up.

    Tim,

    I’m not sure if you are aware of James Sinnamon’s track record for other wordly strangeness. On his blog he tells us that the US bombed the WTC on 9/11; the US Government killed JFK and MLK; Martin Bryant was framed for the Port Arthur massacre by John Howard among a plethora of conspiracy theories. Sinnamon’s co-blogger Sheila Newman links approvingly to a range of right and left wing conspiracy sites about UFOs, how Senator Joe MacCarthy was right about all those commies, the moon landings and so on ad nauseum. I have never seen an odder collection of outright weirdness I rashly bought a copy of the Yeti-slash-UFO obsessed Nexus Magazine (which Sinnamon admits to being a fan of btw).

    You can’t have an adult conversation with these types of people …

  50. Donald Oats
    May 20th, 2015 at 15:49 | #51

    @jt
    Wow. That’s the first time I’ve been accused of lying. In fact, you made an extremely aggressive statement, namely:

    It is a crime (ethically and strategically) to lie through your teeth, which is what you did above in your comment about “recent leaked Shell corporation documents.”

    You have seriously offended me. I may make mistakes, but I do not set out to lie about things, and I certainly do not set out to “lie through my teeth.” It is one thing to think I might have misrepresented something and to say so, but another thing entirely to say I have “lied through my teeth.”

    I went back and re-read the entire article. You are correct: it doesn’t refer to leaked documents, only to the publicly available Lens scenario documents. I wrote that comment after I read two articles about Shell back to back, the second one (also online at the Guardian) being about the Arctic Ice video “leaked email”, and I (unintentionally) conflated the two. I didn’t mean to: I am happy to apologise for making that mistake. However, you could have simply corrected me, rather than accusing me of malice.

  51. Troy Prideaux
    May 20th, 2015 at 16:31 | #52

    @Tim Macknay
    For what it’s worth, thanks for providing the reality check Tim. I have to concede I get most of my impressions of society’s drug, alcohol and suicide problems through media reporting and what you’ve highlighted is that these impressions were erroneously pessimistic – and hey, that’s seriously a good reality check to get.

  52. May 20th, 2015 at 16:42 | #53

    Yet more ad hominem from jt:

    Sinnamon’s co-blogger Sheila Newman links approvingly to a range of right and left wing conspiracy sites about UFOs, how Senator Joe MacCarthy was right about all those commies, the moon landings and so on ad nauseum. I have never seen an odder collection of outright weirdness I rashly bought a copy of the Yeti-slash-UFO obsessed Nexus Magazine (which Sinnamon admits to being a fan of btw).

    That’s news to me. Feel free to show where Sheila published those stories.

    On his blog he tells us that the US bombed the WTC on 9/11; the US Government killed JFK and MLK; Martin Bryant was framed for the Port Arthur massacre by John Howard among a plethora of conspiracy theories.

    Presumably jt also holds that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy.

    The pejorative term ‘conspiracy theorist’ was coined by CIA in the mid-1960s as a means of smearing those who disputed the Warren Commissions findings that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK. Anyone who wants to inform themselves about this should get hold of a copy of Oliver Stone’s JFK in the video stores.

    In 1999 a trial jury found that Martin Luther King had been killed as a result of a con-spiry by the elements of US Army and the Police. See Orders to Kill (1995) by William F. Pepper.

    Anyone who wants to inform themselves about the Port Arthur massacre can find an article I wrote here and download a full 200 page A4 pdf Book linked to from there written by Keith Noble, an an expatriate Australian living in Austria who was inspired by that article to write the book.

  53. May 20th, 2015 at 16:46 | #54

    (Please remove the previous post which omitted an end <\\blockquote>, Professor Quiggin)

    Yet more ad hominem from jt:

    Sinnamon’s co-blogger Sheila Newman links approvingly to a range of right and left wing conspiracy sites about UFOs, how Senator Joe MacCarthy was right about all those commies, the moon landings and so on ad nauseum. I have never seen an odder collection of outright weirdness I rashly bought a copy of the Yeti-slash-UFO obsessed Nexus Magazine (which Sinnamon admits to being a fan of btw).

    That’s news to me. Feel free to show where Sheila published those stories.

    On his blog he tells us that the US bombed the WTC on 9/11; the US Government killed JFK and MLK; Martin Bryant was framed for the Port Arthur massacre by John Howard among a plethora of conspiracy theories.

    Presumably jt also holds that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy.

    The pejorative term ‘conspiracy theorist’ was coined by CIA in the mid-1960s as a means of smearing those who disputed the Warren Commissions findings that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK. Anyone who wants to inform themselves about this should get hold of a copy of Oliver Stone’s JFK in the video stores.

    In 1999 a trial jury found that Martin Luther King had been killed as a result of a con-spiry by the elements of US Army and the Police. See Orders to Kill (1995) by William F. Pepper.

    Anyone who wants to inform themselves about the Port Arthur massacre can find an article I wrote here and download a full 200 page A4 pdf Book linked to from there written by Keith Noble, an an expatriate Australian living in Austria who was inspired by that article to write the book.

  54. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 17:04 | #55

    @Troy Prideaux
    You’re welcome!
    Sadly, media reporting is none too reliable. The concentration of media ownership is one thing that definitely has gotten a lot worse since 1983, although whether or not the media’s propensity to exaggerate has gotten worse since then is an open question (I suspect it’s about the same).

  55. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 17:08 | #56

    Anyone who wants to inform themselves about this should get hold of a copy of Oliver Stone’s JFK in the video stores.

    Can I gently suggest that a Hollywood movie is probably not a sensible place to go looking for reliable information about the real world? I don’t have a strong opinion about exactly who killed Kennedy, but if I wanted to research the matter, I wouldn’t go to Hollywood movies for source material.

  56. Megan
    May 20th, 2015 at 17:13 | #57

    Indonesia and Malaysia have now agreed to take the 8,000 or so refugees adrift in the Straits of Malacca – at least, for a one year temporary period on the condition that the international community shares in taking them in.

    Puts Australia to shame.

  57. Tim Macknay
    May 20th, 2015 at 17:30 | #58

    @Ivor
    Words cannot really convey how sickening that is. In related news, it appears the execrable George Pell has been fingered for attempting to pervert the course of justice. I guess he ran off to the Vatican ‘cos he knew what was coming.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-20/cardinal-george-pell-tried-to-bribe-paedophile-victim-inquiry/6484420

  58. anthony nolan
    May 20th, 2015 at 20:42 | #59

    @Megan
    I read your posts on this issue and want to respond to let you know that I, I am sure along with many other readers here, am as appalled as you are. I’m aware of the developments but feel numb and utterly incapable of taking any kind of action that might actually lead to change. Absolutely stumped as to what to do and diminished by the fact that the heard hearts and idiots are running the joint.

  59. anthony nolan
    May 20th, 2015 at 20:53 | #60

    @Donald Oats
    Fair enough. I also read The Guardian’s articles, the ‘Lens Series’ or whatever but also on the assumption that such information was the result of a leak rather than reinterpretation of available websites from Shell. It was a fair assumption given the torrent of lies, bs and disinformation that has been pouring from the military/industrial/agro-pharmaceutical complex since the end of WWII. It was a fair assumption in the light of Wikileaks cables, Bradley Manning’s disclosures and Snowdens breathtaking democratic propriety in exposing global surveillance.

    In the meantime it looks like neonicotinoid pesticides are implicated in the collapse of bee colonies in the US. Watch out, it is a minefield of bs and disinformation from the usual sources.

  60. jt
    May 20th, 2015 at 21:05 | #61

    @Donald Oats

    Donald Oats, I gather from what you’ve said that you didn’t even bother to read the links in the article you claim to have read. I demand nothing less than intellectual rigour and don’t tolerate flakes. Sorry about that.

  61. Megan
    May 20th, 2015 at 21:32 | #62

    jt has previously denied being “Mel”, but they certainly are incredibly similar in outlook, ‘style’, bombast, personal abuse and dogmatism.

  62. May 20th, 2015 at 21:37 | #63

    Ed Penington :
    Well I screwed up there, but the whole second bit isn’t meant to be a hyperlink..

    That is not a new idea. Putting public servants into a constituency of their own was tried in 19th century Victoria (it was overturned by a backlash because it succeeded, not because it failed), and the U.K. had university seats until well within living memory.

    That linked article misses the point of geographical constituencies. The original idea was never to represent voters but to represent areas that might riot or join rebellions if they didn’t have safety valves; that’s a non-issue for a constituency that doesn’t form a natural strategic entity, which usually meant a geographical one (though clearly that didn’t apply to university educated elites). A minority in any given area was rarely effective enough to matter.

  63. Megan
    May 20th, 2015 at 22:02 | #64

    @anthony nolan

    Thanks.

    feel numb and utterly incapable of taking any kind of action that might actually lead to change

    Know that feeling!

    But something must have changed (admittedly nobody has told the refugees yet or actually gone and got them) between the time about a week or two ago when both Malaysia and Indonesia physically “turned back the boats”, and now.

    Put a straw on the proverbial camel’s back. It might be nothing, or it might be the one that precipitates major change.

  64. Donald Oats
    May 20th, 2015 at 23:00 | #65

    @jt
    First you offend me, now you insult me.

    Take your asinine insinuations and park it, mate.

  65. May 21st, 2015 at 00:25 | #66

    Tim Macknay wrote on May 20th, 2015 at 17:08 | #56 :

    Anyone who wants to inform themselves about this should get hold of a copy of Oliver Stone’s JFK in the video stores.

    Can I gently suggest that a Hollywood movie is probably not a sensible place to go looking for reliable information about the real world? I don’t have a strong opinion about exactly who killed Kennedy, but if I wanted to research the matter, I wouldn’t go to Hollywood movies for source material.

    So would you care to name what you consider to be a more authoritative source than JFK?

    JFK (1991) is Oliver Stone’s adaptation of On the trail of the assassins (1988) by Jim Garrison. Jim Garrison (1921 – 1992) was the District Attorney of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, from 1962 to 1973.

    On the trail of the assassins is Jim Garrison’s account of how he investigated the murder of President Kennedy from 1966 and in 1969 tried to prosecute Clay Shaw for conspiracy to murder President Kennedy.

  66. jt
    May 21st, 2015 at 00:57 | #67

    @James

    JFK is old hat and boring. How about you tell us about John Winston Howard’s role as the evil mastermind behind the Port Arthur masacre?

    I’m also genuinely interested in your thoughts on yetis, Area 51, UFOs and the allegedly fake moon landing.

  67. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 01:06 | #68

    Looks like James threw out a challenge to jt at #54 asking for sources for assertions.

    jt hasn’t addressed that.

    Maybe jt is “lying through his teeth”?

    Goose/Gander/Sauce etc…

  68. Julie Thomas
    May 21st, 2015 at 09:06 | #69

    @Megan

    You are not wrong. 🙂

  69. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 09:54 | #70

    Even the US is going to assist with the refugees:

    The United States said it was ready to help the region “bear the burden” of the refugees.

    State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf welcomed the agreement and said the United States would help the UN set up protection centres, and would consider requests to resettle some refugees.

    “The US stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today. We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants who have risked their lives at sea,” she told reporters.

    Australia is isolated morally and ethically in its cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees.

  70. Tim Macknay
    May 21st, 2015 at 10:43 | #71

    @James

    So would you care to name what you consider to be a more authoritative source than JFK?

    Well James, you’ve answered your own question. If you want to know what Jim Garrison thinks, read Garrison’s book. But more broadly, if I were interested enough to want to try to satisfy myself ‘what really happened’ wrt JFK’s death, I would look at all the primary sources I could find, including all the official stuff, i.e. the transcripts and reports of the Warren Commission, any other material relating to official inquiries, as well as original source material of the critics of the Warren Commission, including Garrison.

    But to be honest, I’m surprised that you’d put forward a Hollywood movie as a source of information on a serious issue. Hollywood movies, even ones based on factual events, are fictionalised accounts that are designed to provide drama and audience engagement, which they do by simplifying things, and distorting or leaving out information. Also, the JFK film, based on Garrison’s account, provides just one point of view on an issue that, rather obviously, has multiple points of view that are at odds with each other. In order to come to an informed opinion, it’s necessary to examine all the different points of view (FWIW, I have seen most of Stone’s films, including JFK).

    BTW, you haven’t commented regarding the information I provided in relation to our discussion upthread in response to your request to ‘produce the evidence’. Your thoughts?

  71. Tim Macknay
    May 21st, 2015 at 10:48 | #72

    @Megan

    But something must have changed (admittedly nobody has told the refugees yet or actually gone and got them) between the time about a week or two ago when both Malaysia and Indonesia physically “turned back the boats”, and now.

    Some of the reports I’ve read say that ‘international pressure’ had led to the turnaround, although they weren’t clear on exactly what the pressure was. it that’s the case, it’s a pity more international pressure isn’t applied to Australia in regard to its own policy.

    I fear though, that it took the prospect of a vast humanitarian disaster for sufficient attention and pressure to be focused on Malaysia and Indonesia, and I’m doubtful that similar pressure would be applied to Australia in the absence of a similar prospective disaster. There seems to be a minimum number of asylum seekers’ lives that need to be in imminent danger at any one moment for the international community to pay attention.

    Hopefully though, the view that I’ve just expressed is overly cynical, and that some sort of international reappraisal will occur, leading to generalised pressure for more humane policies.

  72. John Quiggin
    May 21st, 2015 at 11:04 | #73

    jt, nothing more from you, please. I asked you previously not to attack other commenters.

  73. Florence nee Fed up
    May 21st, 2015 at 11:31 | #74

    What has changed, is that very poor people observing what was happening, took the matter into their own hands, saving some. Yes, people became humans, not something to be demonised.

    The reaction from Abbott made him look harder, if possible and more idiotic.

  74. Tim Macknay
    May 21st, 2015 at 11:44 | #75

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikon, (I’m not sure if you’re still reading this thread, but anyway…) thinking about our discussion further upthread, it occurs to me that my comment at #21 may have come across as dismissive of your concerns. I want to say that I substantially agree with all the points you made in your comment at #20 regarding the impact of economic policies on opportunities for youth. I did not intend to come across as though I was dismissing your views or belittling your concern for your own children’s future. I apologise that it may have come across that way.

  75. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 11:54 | #76

    Out in the weird-o-sphere, Michael Brissenden and Chris Kenny are apparently taking the line that the credit for saving these refugees goes to Abbott for taking a tough stance and turning back the boats.

    I think the “logic” goes along the lines that because Australia forced refugee boats away the “problem” manifested itself elsewhere and resulted in these other countries having to take the refugees. So that’s good for the refugees and everyone should thank Australia.

  76. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 12:03 | #77

    From this morning’s ‘AM’ on Rupert’s ABC:

    MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Now as we’ve seen, you have been critical of Australian policies in the past, but isn’t it the case that those tough policies are now putting more pressure on the region to take a greater responsibility for this as well and not just act as a transit points?

  77. Tim Macknay
    May 21st, 2015 at 12:41 | #78

    @Megan
    Brissenden thinks turning back boats is “taking responsibility”? He seems confused.

  78. Florence nee Fed up
    May 21st, 2015 at 12:59 | #79

    The lives Abbott claims he is saving, are on those boats are on the high seas. He has not made it any safer in their own country. They still have to flee. All Abbott has done is to take away $28 million in foreign aid, to alleviate poverty. In fact made conditions worse for them.

  79. anthony nolan
    May 21st, 2015 at 14:16 | #80

    The best I can do about the refugee crisis is to try and make sense of it. Australia appears to be sorting itself into two great camps in which attitude to those in peril on the sea, at any given moment the most abject of the wretched of the earth, do or do not deserve rescue and thence humane treatment while things get sorted. Those who would provide aid are morally and ethically motivated by a diverse range of religious and spiritual commitments including atheist humanism and all sorts of religions. Those who would refuse aid, in my view, are in breach of all religious or atheist humanitarian commitments. It appears that the upcoming Papal Encyclical will support this understanding of Christianity – that refusal of aid to the poor is a total breach of Church and faith.

    The right wing xenophobes have some characteristics in common: being a bully, a public commitment to weirdo relgious extremism, being a prvileged white male. They tell outrageous lies and apparently believe that retelling the lie constitutes honesty. In short, they are not all powerful. In fact, they are weak people because they have chosen an immoral and unethical path.

    The lies that they tell us also tell us much more about their inner workings than we realise. They run on self deception as a condition of existence as does anyone on the axis of personality disorder. It may be the case that the deranged and diagnosably psychologically unwell have constituted themselves as a self ordering regime in their own interests. These are people who have remained unmodernised. Their sense of self, which is exclusive, is incapable of extending considertion to others except where they adhere, as a smokescreen, to very conformist social expectations like a church in which the entire lay community consists of subjectivities just like them.

    This explains the culture wars that are ongoing in Australia and the US. They are the contested boundaries of what could be seen as a war between two basic but different tribes of a single, planetarily colonising species. Us. It has little enough to do with religion except as a manifestation of which side of the modernity divide your consciousness is located. There are bullies and predators, liars and cheats in all religions in the same way that there are properly modernised people in the same institutions who conduct themselves impeccably.

    What none of them can stand is exposure. Sustained critical appraisal of their actions and words along with a vigorous public discussion about it. That discussion needs to incorporate the so called ‘private’ or subjective beliefs of all people in the public sphere. Transparency enabled by a non-surveilled www is the medium horizon strategic objective in order to sustain the conditions for struggle.

  80. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 15:07 | #81

    Malaysia has now ordered a search and rescue operation.

    Our navy and other defence personnel would much rather be doing such things than enforcing our current policies of rejection and deterrence, in my view.

  81. Donald Oats
    May 21st, 2015 at 17:15 | #82

    As far as I can tell, PM Abbott would rather spend a packet on searching for a downed commercial airliner, weeks after all hope is lost, than searching for desperate people on boats, trapped on the high seas, thanks to intransigent policies of refusing to allow entry of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

    Killing people at sea is the direct result of the turn-back-the-boats policies, whether we do it or other countries do it. Our methods for dealing with asylum seekers coming by boat do not have to be inhumane; it is quite feasible to be tough without wanton endangerment of the lives of those at sea. As PM Abbott’s most recent pronouncements make clear, it is a deliberate and calculated strategy to deny entry under all circumstances, knowing that will kill people.

    Reality is that people will board boats if that is a better option than staying under oppression. We can influence that to some extent by making it more difficult to get into Australia by that method, but we won’t ever stop it completely. The question is then a simple one: how to enact a policy which satisfies our international obligations with respect to asylum seekers, while finding ways to minimise the use of boats as a method of getting here. We should be capable of dismantling and disrupting people-smuggling without further endangering the people themselves.

    When it comes to asylum seekers, I don’t care who is in power: I care about the policies they enact and execute, and whether they transgress our international obligations, and more simply, basic human decency.

  82. Florence nee Fed up
    May 21st, 2015 at 21:58 | #83

    I would like to see Abbott apply the Christian values he places so much faith in, to alleviating the poverty and torture that asylum seekers find themselves in. Take market from the smugglers he is obsessed with. He needs to understand, smugglers need push find passengers on their boats of death.

  83. Megan
    May 21st, 2015 at 23:35 | #84

    It’s underpinned by the same fallacies as the “War On Drugs” or the “War On Poverty” etc.. and is driven by a pathological ideology.

    There are two angles to “stopping the boats”.

    1. I want the boats to stop coming here with refugees.
    or
    2. I want to stop people drowning.

    If the concern is with the welfare of the refugees, then the answer is blindingly simple: save them from drowning by sending good boats to save them; have a process in the places the boats are departing from whereby they can leave and claim asylum without getting on dodgy boats; have adequate resources to quickly and fairly grant refugee processes at the departure points; and, do all of this without any cost to the refugees.

    The mythical “business model of the people smugglers” (thanks ALP) would immediately cease to exist.

    On the other hand, if – as is equally blindingly obvious – I really don’t care at all for the safety of the refugees so long as they do their dying and suffering elsewhere and out of sight, then the approach is the one adopted by the ALP/LNP duopoly in ever more dastardly increments since first introduced by Labor in 1992. And that is to “deter” people by forcing other people to suffer.

    Scum. Lying scum.

  84. May 22nd, 2015 at 00:23 | #85

    Thank you, Megan on May 21st, 2015 at 01:06 and on May 20th, 2015 at 21:32 and Julie Thomas on May 21st, 2015 at 09:06.

    On the one hand Tim Macknay, by dismissing the evidence presented in Oliver Stone’s JFK and in Jim Garrison’s On the Trail of the Assassins, is taking sides with those, here and elsewhere, who wish to cover up the facts about the murder of President Kennedy on 22 November 1963 (and the murder of others who have blown the whistle on JFK’s murder since) and, on the other hand, Tim Macknay has twice stated (on May 20th, 2015 at 17:08 and on May 21st, 2015 at 10:43) that he has no interest in finding out the truth of this matter.

    You can’t have it both ways, Tim Macknay. Either deal with the arguments I have presented or stop wasting my time and and stop wasting the time of other visitors.

    Tim Macknay wrote on May 21st, 2015 at 10:43 :

    Also, the JFK film, based on Garrison’s account, provides just one point of view on an issue that, rather obviously, has multiple points of view that are at odds with each other.

    The murder of a President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 was a crime. When a crime is committed, particularly a crime as serious as the murder of a country’s head of state (not to mention the subsequent escalation of the Vietnam War, made possible by that murder) the job of the police is to solve that crime, to charge and arrest suspects and present the evidence they have gathered to court so that a jury can decide on whether the person or persons charged is guilty or not guilty.

    If all law enforcement officers were to adopt the mindset displayed by Tim Macknay, a good many more serious crimes would remain unsolved.

    Tim Macknay also wrote on May 21st, 2015 at 10:43 :

    BTW, you haven’t commented regarding the information I provided in relation to our discussion upthread in response to your request to ‘produce the evidence’. Your thoughts?

    I will get back to that in the near future.

    A story in a local community newspaper, Australians feeling the hunger strain further confirms the overwhelming anecdotal evidence on this page (see May 19th, 2015 at 20:06):

    TEN per cent of Australians say they can’t afford to buy enough food.

    That damning figure from the 2014 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is compounded by the waste of so much fresh food.

    Foodbank Victoria’s Hunger Report last year revealed almost 9000 Victorians – 2700 of them children – were being turned away from food charities that couldn’t keep up with demand.

    The report, compiled from responses by 1197 food relief agencies, showed that more than 90,900 people in Victoria alone accessed food relief each month – almost a third of them children.

  85. Collin Street
    May 22nd, 2015 at 09:47 | #86

    > I would like to see Abbott apply the Christian values he places so much faith in,

    I don’t think you should tell people they’re doing their own personal faith wrong. Tony Abbott’s christianity is his own and might differ from anyone else’s. We have to believe that his actions manifest the christianity he actually believes.

  86. Florence nee Fed up
    May 22nd, 2015 at 10:42 | #87

    We have to believe that his actions manifest the christianity he actually believes.

    Sorry. we do not have to believe. I didn’t know that one is entitled to their own version of Christianity. He is either a Christian or not.

    When it comes to religion, I am an ex catholic and do not follow any religion. I also have no problem with those who do.

    What I do know, Abbott has a different view than the one I was bought up with.

    One can treat their fellow man with respect, without religion.

  87. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 10:54 | #88

    Abbott seems to be manifesting his Christianity by backing Pell over the abuse victims who have given evidence to the Royal Commission.

  88. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 11:10 | #89

    @James

    …Tim Macknay, by dismissing the evidence presented in Oliver Stone’s JFK and in Jim Garrison’s On the Trail of the Assassins…is taking sides with those, here and elsewhere, who wish to cover up the facts about the murder of President Kennedy

    Huh? I haven’t “dismissed” any evidence. Where on earth is that coming from? How on Earth am I “taking sides”? All I did was point out that Hollywood movies are not a sensible place to go for reliable information about the real world. That is common sense, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t express any view on Garrison’s book, as I haven’t read it.

    You can’t have it both ways, Tim Macknay. Either deal with the arguments I have presented or stop wasting my time and and stop wasting the time of other visitors.

    What “arguments” are you talking about? Why are you accusing me of “wasting your time”? The stuff about law enforcement officers is just a rant, that has no relevance to anything I said.

    I have engaged with you in good faith and civility all the way through this thread, and I’ve applied the principle of charity to interpreting your comments. I have no idea why you have now chosen to be rude, but it doesn’t reflect particularly well on you.

  89. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 11:40 | #90

    @James

    TEN per cent of Australians say they can’t afford to buy enough food.
    That damning figure from the 2014 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is compounded by the waste of so much fresh food.

    That OECD Report is an interesting document. Here’s the link to the report for those interested:
    http://www.oecd.org/australia/OECD-SocietyAtaGlance2014-Highlights-Australia.pdf

  90. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 11:45 | #91

    My previous comment with a link is in automoderation, but I wanted to say that the OECD Report mentioned in the article cited by James is an interesting document, and worth a look. The report is called “Society at a Glance 2014 Highlights: Australia OECD Social Indicators”, and can be accessed at the OECD web site in the section on Australia (or googled).

  91. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 11:49 | #92

    The OECD piece entitled “how’s life in Australia” also provides an interesting snapshot, and does highlight some of the ways in which ‘neoliberal’ economic policies have adversely affected life in Australia, such as greater inequality and longer working hours.

  92. Collin Street
    May 22nd, 2015 at 13:08 | #93

    > I didn’t know that one is entitled to their own version of Christianity.

    People believe what they believe, including the beliefs they have about appropriate labels: you can call it “not what I’d call christianity”, or “not a faith I’d respect”, but you can’t call it “not what Abbott would call christianity” or “not what Abbott believes”.

    [You can only call it “not christianity” if you have an agreed definition of what “christianity” is… but if we had that we wouldn’t have the discussion, so.]

  93. jt
    May 22nd, 2015 at 13:34 | #94

    Thanks for the OECD link, Tim.

    I think I am in rough alignment with Tim on the state of Australia. Many things are bad but on the major indicators they aren’t there worst. But there are still plenty of things to be angry about. For instance, I know several young people who are smart and energetic but working cash in hand for as little as $10 an hour for a bosses who treat them like dirt. I know others who are well credentialled but a little introverted and awkward so they’ll probably never get to work in the field they are aspire to because they’ll always rate poorly in interviews. There simply aren’t enough jobs and this causes immense suffering. I hate all this but it was certainly worse back when I came onto the job market during Keating’s recession we had to have, when the unemployment figure was 2%-3% higher than now IIRC.

    Another thing that depresses me is the decline in social capital. Individualism has won out over communitarianism. I wish I new how to fix that one. I haven’t checked lately but I think on this particular indicator we may well be at or near our lowest ebb.

  94. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 14:07 | #95

    @jt
    You’re welcome!

  95. May 22nd, 2015 at 14:18 | #96

    The following is also posted here on my own site. That post includes links which can’t easily be included here.

    Tim Macknay on May 22nd, 2015 at 11:10,

    My apologies for implying, whether implicitly or explicitly, that you were not posting to this forum in good faith.

    Nonetheless, I think you should acknowledge that the issue of who killed President Kennedy, and why, is one of the critical questions of the late 20th century and the early 21st century. The 1,000 days for which Kennedy was President was one of two periods in the 20th and 21st centuries, during which the United States made a constructive, and not destructive, contribution to humanity.[1]

    We are living today, in May 2015, with the consequences of the murders of the two Kennedy brothers and of Martin Luther King and the rule of the United States by a succession mostly of rogues since 1963. The consequences include:

    The Vietnam War;

    The wars and sanctions against Iraq since 1990 which, according to former United States’ Attorney General Ramsey Clarke, have cost as many as 3 million lives including 750,00 children;

    The invasion of Libya in 2011;

    The terrorist proxy war against Syria since march 2011, which has since 2011, cost over 220,000 lives;

    The coup, which installed a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine in January 2014, and the subsequent war against Russian speaking people in East Ukraine; and

    The current invasion of Yemen by the Saudi Arabian dictatorship.

    Tim Macknay on May 22nd, 2015 at 11:10:

    The stuff about law enforcement officers is just a rant, that has no relevance to anything I said.

    The relevance is: With the exception of Jim Garrison and a few others, including a number of other police officers and security agents on duty in Dallas on 22 November 1963, most law enforcement officers with the responsibility to care for President Kennedy and solve his murder, abysmally failed in their duty to test “multiple points of view that are at odds with each other” against the evidence. That is why an innocent man was framed for the murder and killed that very same day before the supposed evidence against him could be tested in a court of law.

    A good resource to understand the history of the United States is The Untold History of the United States (2012) by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. The video of that book is now freely available here on YouTube.

    Footnote[s]

    [1] The other occasion, within the 20th Century, in which the United States made a positive contribution to humanity, was the period from March 1933 until April 1945.

    In that time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR):

    scrapped the dogma of economic neoliberalism and used massive government spending programs to eliminate unemployment and lift the standard of living from ordinary Americans; and

    against understandable public opposition, got America to enter the Second World War against Nazi Germany and its allies, thereby probably making the difference (not withstanding the bravery of, and terrible sacrifice by, the Soviet peoples) between the survival of democracy and the global triumph of Nazism.

  96. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 15:33 | #97

    @James
    Thanks for the apology, James.
    However, I’m going to have to disappoint you on JFK, as I’m not interested in having an extended discussion about the JFK assassination.

  97. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 15:48 | #98

    @Tim Macknay
    I feel should clarify one point – when I said that your remarks about law enforcement had no relevance to what I said, what I meant was that the way police officers went about, or failed to go about, their duties in 1963 has no relevance to what I, in 2015, would need to do in order to come to an informed view about the Kennedy assassination. Clearly, I am in an entirely different situation from the officers charged with investigating that crime. So the comparison you made between they way those officers did their job and the way I described how I would go about researching the matter is not a useful comparison. That’s all.

  98. Tim Macknay
    May 22nd, 2015 at 16:07 | #99

    @jt

    Another thing that depresses me is the decline in social capital. Individualism has won out over communitarianism. I wish I new how to fix that one.

    This is true, and it is one of the more pernicious ways in which economic rationalist/neoliberal thinking has impacted our society – the way market-oriented individualism is now such an entrenched worldview that it becomes hard to articulate alternatives. To that extent I agree with Ikon’s remark about the shift in the Overton window, although I still maintain that his description of me as a rightwing libertarian was incorrect (and rude!).

  99. anthony nolan
    May 22nd, 2015 at 17:04 | #100

    @jt
    Estimations of the strength of communalism, or its weakness, are situational. I live in an area recently subject to a serious flood crisis. The usual state sponsored agencies well: SES, Bush Fire Brigade, Ambos and so on. Then there were all sort of local organisations, the regulars like the CWA, the local nursing home support network, ad hoc organisations to provide food, bedding, clothing to homeless flood victims. The owner of the bottom pub filled his rooms, fed people for free and also provided commercial washing machines and driers for free. Another pub in town did the same.

    Anecdote is always good: one day, helping to clear out a totally flooded house, a couple of young blokes turned up with a shovel and a wheelbarrow to clear out the kitchen where the ceiling had collapsed onto the floor. It was a stinking mess. They did the job so that the rest of us could actually move in the debris. Later, I overheard one of them say “who lives here anyway?”.

    A local women’s refuge donated vast quantities o fexecrable. home cooked food. Numerous people donated mattresses that were piss stained or looked like grandma had bled out on them. Others gave junk not because they were cynically emptying their back cupboard but because they wanted to do something, to contribute somehow.

    It has been a debacle, a mess. Telstra, power companies, water supply have all been seriously disrupted and shown to be incompetent at dealing with emergency as has the local council and sundry worthy gasbags who occupy the limited local public spaces.

    I’ve been involved with various local actions that illustrate the ability of the rural (remnant) working classes to organize self help. We have done a good job. I’ve been around people with the arse out of their pants, people for whom the idea of asking for help from their neighbours and mates is anathema, and they’ve accepted help when offered sideways, to preserve their sense of self respect.

    There’s a big tradition of self help, voluntarism and mutual aid in Australia. Those who imagine that they are on the left, whatever that might mean these days, are deluding themselves if they think that a pose is sufficient. The path is participation.
    .

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